tv Tavis Smiley PBS November 24, 2011 12:00am-12:30am PST
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. the, a conversation with martin sheen and his son, emilio estevez. it was written for his father and is in theaters across the country right now. we're glad you have joined us. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time.
nationwide is on your side. >> and by viewers like you. if thank you. kcet public television] tavis: pleased to welcome martin sheen and emilio west of as to the program. the way, a movie written and directed by emilio, here are some scenes from "the way." >> are they going to change your life? >> something like that.
♪ >> i am so sorry, i had no idea. >> those are smart, confident, stubborn. >> a lot like you. tavis: take me back when you started writing the project and you know you are writing this specifically for your father. what is that process like? >> i wanted to write something that explored who he is as a man and as an actor. he would throw all of us kids in the back of a country squire station wagon and we would drive across the country, landing in some location. for every badlands' or every apocalypse now that we had to travel to, there were 10 f-15 not of good movies that people
who had seen. [laughter] he had four kids and wife to feed. i knew that when he was not working, it was up to his standards. i wanted to write something that would remind us what an extraordinary talent he is. as i sat down to write, would he do this? the only thing he objected to, i think -- and the roof came up. >> i am practicing, i keep practicing until we get it right. tavis: i want you to unpacked something you just said, you wanted to remind us how great an actor he really is. what is that about his gift?
>> when you look at his filmography, he is not a military assassin like he was an apocalypse now, he is not the president of the united states although sometimes he likes to think that he is. the is this gifted, talented, sensitive guy. my father does things for other people, reaches out when there are no cameras. that is a measure of how big his heart is. almost generous to a fault. this film is an expression of his heart and his generosity. >> i said a moment ago -- tavis: i said a moment ago, practicing catholic and trying to get it right. how do you put a project on the screen about spirituality and let that message get through without proselytizing?
>> that is a credit to emilio. he composed it so so that we weren't hitting anyone over the head with what we believed. if you want to take this journey, come with us. it is uplifting and healing at a lot of fun along the way. never hitting anyone over the head of with religion or spiritual odyssey -- spirituality. tavis: you read what he put in front of you, were you ok with everything that you read? i assume not. how do you say, thank you for writing this for me, but i need to make some cosmetic changes here. but dad, i wrote this for you. >> i wept with joy, i was so brief -- deeply grateful.
it is the best part i have had in 30 years. it was the first role that i had to carry the picture. the only anxiety was that i would not live up to his expectations. >> at my mother said she has not seen him as disciplined or worked as hard since he was a struggling actor in the early 60's in new york. >> or work for as little money. [laughter] tavis: but to his point, i wonder whether or not you processed it the way that your dad did, that bad has to carry it. it is a wonderful love letter. but you have to carry this film. >> i knew he had it in him. growing up and watching his work, i knew that he had not been given the shots.
tavis: i don't want to give too much away, but what about describing what it really is. >> it's homage to homer's odyssey or the canterbury tales of the wizard of oz. i am sort of the fifth pilgrim, i am in the box. it starts and those 500 miles across the north. and in san -- it ends where the apostles are buried. tavis: film on location? >> entirely. tavis: what is it like to make a movie about faith and spirituality, doing it in that
space? >> there were moments and a miracle that happened throughout the journey. we shot this film in 30 days. it was the time and money that we had. we shot very low impact, super 16, dressed as pilgrims and moved like a group of pilgrims ourselves. i like to say, and my mom likes to say that i may work in progress in terms of my spiritual path. she met this guy, and he was raised a devout catholic. i heard nothing but arguments about religion or spirituality. as a young kid, you get very confused about it. i like to say that the proof is
not just in the pudding, it is in the eating of the pudding. you get an idea of where i am at in terms of my past. tavis: did anything happen to you, were there any revelations or experiences that the advance you on your personal journey? >> every day, there was some measure of a miracle, so we stopped calling them coincidences. just be open. we are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. tavis: you are doing a project about faith and your literally taking a journey that persons of faith take for thousands of years, what is that experience like? >> it was a reflection of who we
were and where we were headed in our own lives. all of us, trying to unite the will of the spirit to the work of the flesh. the pilgrimage gives each person an opportunity to explore the possibility of transcendence. you pack your stuff and you begin your journey, you have a destination. the reason you start off is not always the reason you end. you start getting rid of the things you have over pact. you begin to open up the cells and let things go the of the hanging on to, events that you have been blaming for holding you back. that is the truth of the message. -- true pilgrimage.
that is a real memory of a pilgrimage. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: how have you remained a person of faith through these years? just from what i know of your life, i could suggest to you that there were moments along the way where your faith was tested and yet, for all these years, you have remained a person of faith. >> i sincerely believe that everything is grace. and you have to stick around long enough to see it through. i am a very optimistic person. if i were told that this was the last the day, i would still give thanks and praise, it has been wonderful. i could not have asked for more love for support or compassion. it has been an extraordinary
life. i give thanks and praise every day. it is a mystery that i embrace. if you want to talk about god, we don't know what god is, do we? it is a question that advised of history, we don't know. the more explanations we give, the more we realize how little we know. we are limited, we are so finding. i am president of the mystery of just being alive, every single day. tavis: i am not being comical and asking of this question, i am serious. i want to preface, i am not trying to be funny. i am serious about the business , being a long-distance runner, how does that emboldened your faith or challenger faith?
>> the only way that i got the old when i fell or was lifted up was with my faith. the business and was not there to lift me up, but my faith always was. i was lucky enough to be married to this young man posing another for 50 years, and she was the one person in my life that told me the truth, nothing but the truth, and she told it to me all the time. she made it possible for me to live an honest life. tavis: a lot of people have a difficult time, if ever, getting to that pace. >> it is true. he always says, go higher, brother. that is what the movie celebrates. the low hanging fruit is a
cynicism and pessimism. if you want to go a little higher, the fruit is a lot sweeter. and the view is certainly a lot better. in this pessimistic or cynical culture, i am interested in pushing back against that. tavis: is the film may push back on that? >> is, indeed. it is a look at where we are at not only in our faith, but the sort of film's live like to see more often. tavis: this will be a tricky term, is this a message movie or a message film? or do you think that is something that is an powering and entertaining? >> i think it is entertaining. the people in this film, the characters are wonderfully broken. i prefer to say themes rather than messages. at the end of the day, it is
about being a ok with exactly who you are. this culture that we live then, take this bill and be happy, go on as diet, get your teeth whitened, but there's no message out there to say hey, being ok -- you're ok exactly who you are. tavis: i have said a million times, analysis of what is wrong with our culture today, the decay of our civilization. what i have said is that people would rather see a sermon that here a sermon. -- than hear a sermon. what ever struggles that we have in the faith walk, you have always been the kind of humanist
that we should all expire -- to aspire to be. you have been on the front lines with protests, you have been arrested more times than i can count. my friend dr. west just got out, thank god. tavis: in new york. you have been such a soldier in that way. where did it come from? >> i have to say that they came from my catholic faith. i came back to its 30 years ago, and it is a much different faith that what i was raised in. the octet for the poor, they had taken a stand for the marginalized and the voiceless. it was about compassion, it was about the works of mercy to feed the hungry, to house the homeless. that made a great sense to me. by the fruits, you will allow them.
do these works of mercy, and it is going to cost you something. if it doesn't, you are left to question the value. this guy shows up and asked me to let him in. st. peter says, show us your scars. he says, i have no scars. what a pity, was there nothing worth fighting for? we have to fight for something. it has to cost us our lives, our faith. we are left to question its value. tavis: has it cost you in hollywood? >> hollywood would have to answer that. have you lost jobs because of your commitment? >> i don't know. if it is true, i am sure it is equally true that there are those that reached out to me. >> are you watching tv?
turn on channel 7. he got arrested again. someone will get him. tavis: your being funny about this now. it is true, and it is funny. and you have been raised at a house with a guy that you admirer and revere as your father, admire and revere as a great has been -- thespian. also a guy who, agian, my -- again, my word, put pressure on you and your siblings about how you should go and live your life. >> of the confrontation we got into was about my name and not changing my name. it was 1979 when i decided that this was something i wanted to do and i got my first head shot
done. i used emilio sheen. it looked terrible. he railed. don't do it. don't make the same mistake i did. honor your name, honor your heritage, are where we came from. that was a big lesson for me. that was the beginning of it. tavis: have you ever regretted that decision? >> never. >> i regret it mine. my father's one disappointment. all my official documents were born and baptize under that name, my passport, driver's license. i invented the character because i did not want to feel the prejudice against the border region community -- the puerto rican community.
i thought i will scoot around this issue. tavis: how you process living a life by her own admission that it is the one thing that you sorely disappointed your father in? how do you process your way through that? >> i had to accept it as a astake of use, it was lighke choice i made. i would haveounsel, thought differently. i did it solely on my own. it was the advice of a manager, i didn't have one at that time. i faced where i was against to i was and i opted for a smoother path appea. tavis: your father, it led to the decision of coming the martin sheen.
you took your father's advice and stayed true to your roots. you come out the gate and you come out the box fast. you are a star, and just a kid, basically. how have you navigated past that kind of expectation? >> it is a very different world in terms of the media. i am not sure i would have survived the kind of scrutiny that actors are under now. frankly, i look to these kids that are coming up through the ranks and it is scary. you don't know what they will be able to handle the kind of pressure. i always had my family to be there and certainly, the many years he spent in the business, he was always a voice i could go back to and say, this is the film i have been offered, or this is the agent i am thinking about going with and i was able
to bounce a lot of stuff off of him. it was a great advantage that a lot of my contemporaries did not have. tavis: what was the family business before you changed it? >> my father, he had his own vineyard as a young man in spain. he had his own vegetables and animals. it's get degeneration, and this guy is living that same kind of life. he is more spanish than i ever imagined i would be. >> i have a farm, i raise chickens and peas and worms. it is a 1 acre plot, and we're using all of it to grow food. i am definitely tapped into the
whole spanish revival. tavis: what does it feel like when your heritage comes full circle? >> is made more extraordinary by the fact that my son lives in spain. he is 27 years old. he met a girl working as my dad assistant on the west wing. between season 3 and 4, they went to spain to check it out. off they went, my son and he and a full actor who, they go to the town about two hours north of madrid. her mother's name means miracle in spanish. he has been living there, married a couple of years. that is the first miracle on this journey, but the movie is inspired by a grandson and
dedicated to a grandfather. we're doing all the work. tavis: i am curious why you called this a "away. >> is short for the way of saint james. going to call it something else but that might have caused confusion in how to practice. tavis: we are arch to have you on. it is special to see this kind of father-son relationship. every father-son should want this kind of bond. the project directed, written by, and he's got acting in it himself, emilio estevez. the father, martins heen. - - mart -- martin sheen. see you next time on pbs.
thanks for watching and as always, keep the faith. >> who knows about these kind of things? anyway, they say that miracles -- >> do you believe in miracles, father? >> i am a priest. it is kind of my job. >> i don't practice anymore. mass at christmas, easter, just about it. >> take it. loud and catholics out here, kid. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with renowned neurosurgeon, also known as the doctor q. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or
boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions by viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television]